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Climate-resilient WASH among people experiencing homelessness in cities

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Access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure (WASH) and related health benefits are widely enjoyed in high-income countries. WASH access is closely related to housing, which makes the provision, funding, operation and maintenance the responsibility of property owners. As a result, people without a permanent home, including people experiencing homelessness in urban areas, are often excluded from access. For them, homeless shelters, shelter services and public WASH infrastructure, are often the only option.

What is already challenging under “normal” circumstances is complicated during extreme weather events: during heat waves, individuals require more water for hydration and cooling; flooding makes public toilets inaccessible; extreme cold disrupt the water supply. People affected by homelessness suffer particularly from the failure of the infrastructure and the resulting disease burden.

Despite the high societal relevance according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 to “ensure water and sanitation for all”, and despite the human right to water and sanitation, the needs of people without homeless people are not yet fully met; WASH inequalities and the resulting burden of disease remain hidden and under-researched in official statistics. And despite the increasing frequency, intensity and unpredictability of extreme weather events, and evidence that extreme weather events threaten the daily life and health of homeless people, the impact on WASH infrastructure, the consequences for homeless people and their health are not yet fully understood.

With this ITC-funded Blue Skies project we aim to fill both knowledge gaps and involves homeless people as key actors to identify appropriate solutions and interventions. We combine a literature review with empirical data collection, analysis and triangulation, and apply a mixed method approach that includes photovoice and participatory mapping alongside interviews with homeless people and inspections of publicly accessible WASH infrastructure.

More information

If you are interested in learning more about climate-resilient WASH and our work with people experiencing homelessness, in collaborating, e.g. by teaming up in research, offering funding opportunities, sharing relevant data, as a key informant or interviewee, please contact us at c.anthonj@utwente.nl (subject: climate-resilient WASH and homelessness).

Staff involved:

dr. C. Anthonj (Carmen)
Assistant Professor
dr. J. Flacke (Johannes)
Associate Professor
K.I.H. Mingoti Poague MSc (Kasandra)
PhD Candidate
dr. J.L. Sturge (Jodi)
Assistant Professor